When we give ourselves some time and some promptings to remember, we can recall images and stories, and stories and images can change lives, can turn people toward God who waits for our turning. For most of us, these stories and pictures speak louder than proclamations.
The history of our art, our music, our science and engineering breakthroughs more often than not springs from our ability to pay attention to the world around us. The ordinary world, from its molecules and atoms to the grandest of canyons and the vastness of oceans, continues to inspire and motivate change, innovation and art.
So much of prayer, like so much of the creative process, is in fact about waiting. But it is not a passive waiting as much as it is a time of expectation that something will happen, a hidden promise that revelation or inspiration will come if we leave ourselves open to that secret and mystical movement of God in our lives.
Asking “what if” is one of the most creative and contemplative questions we can ask ourselves. How many books, poems, paintings, songs, plays or other creative works have come to life because the artist dared to ask, “what if?”
I know that many of you — I would say all of you — are creative people yourselves, involved in writing and art and music and other forms of expression. And if you’re not, I’d encourage you to ask yourself if there might be some work for you to do. As I move forward into the new year, I’m going to encourage that creativity in those of you who read my blog, even as I encourage you to look deep within for the source of that good work.
May we take our work seriously and ourselves with a grain a salt, with a growing knowledge that we are only instruments waiting to be played, apprentices under the guiding hand of a master craftsman, young players in need of the maestro’s baton, glimmering pieces of shiny glass and refracted light in search of focus and unity, sparkling moments of inspiration awaiting meaning and purpose, self-knowledge that we are moons, not stars capable of our own energy and light.
I’ve written about mystery and around mystery and have been inspired by mystery. How could I have not? As a person of faith who tries to live a contemplative and aware life, mystery lies at the core of all I am and believe. For in mystery, God resides.
It’s okay to not be productive for a while (and that’s a tough one for me). It’s okay to simply sit “fallow” with God in prayer, without agenda or even words, knowing that God is plowing and harrowing me, leaving me unsown in order to restore my fruitfulness at the time only God controls. God’s work, God’s time.
“The Church must be a poetic community,” theologian Walter Brueggemann once wrote, meaning — in my mind anyway — that if we are going to reach the people around us with the Gospel, we’re going to have to move beyond the standard rhetoric and capture their imaginations through our creativity, poetry, music, and art.
The creative arts, at least for many of us who profess a Creator God, are acts of faith. When we dare to create, when we “step out the boat,” we move from safety and comfort into an area of uncertainty, for when we begin to create we don’t always know where we are going to end up.